Today's Papers

Lay Over

Everybody leads with the Enron convictions: A jury found Ken Lay guilty on all charges and his protégé Jeffrey Skilling guilty on 19 charges.

The jury concluded that Lay and Skilling lied to employees and shareholders, insisting things were A-OK while Enron was actually going down the toilet and the two were selling their shares. Before its collapse in late 2001, Enron had become the country’s seventh-largest public company.

The two men spent an estimated $60 million on their defense, but the jury didn’t buy their pleas that they had no idea what was going on and that Enron, as the Wall Street Journal summarizes their defense, was simply a “law-abiding company done in by newspaper reports, short-sellers and market panic.”

“I wanted very, very badly to believe what they were saying,” said one juror at a press conference after the verdict. But Skilling and Lay’s own testimony, where they tried to hammer home their alleged ignorance, helped to do them in. “There were places in the testimony where I felt their character was in question,” said the juror. Of course, not testifying might have spelled trouble too. “I would have always had questions if they had not taken the stand,” said another juror.

Lay and Skilling both face dozens of years in the slammer, and both suggested they’re going to appeal. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 11.

Slate’s Daniel Gross points out that, for all the hoopla, when it comes to Wall Street “the bugs in the system remain.”

The New York Timesand Los Angeles Times front what military officials say appear to be the murders of two dozen Iraqis by Marines last November. A congressional official said the shootings were “methodical in nature.” The Marines reportedly killed a few unarmed men taken from a taxi. Then they went into houses, where they killed women and children.

An initial press release from the military said most of the civilians were killed by a “roadside bomb.” The NYT, which has the more detailed report, asked a “senior defense official” how many Iraqis were really killed by the bomb. The answer: “Zero.”

The military only investigated after Time magazine started digging and reported the story back in March. The killings are now the focus of three investigations, including one into the possible cover-up.

“When these investigations come out, there’s going to be a firestorm,” one retired military lawyer told the Washington Post. “It will be worse than Abu Ghraib—nobody was killed at Abu Ghraib.”

Most of the papers front the Senate, as expected, passing its immigration bill. The Post goes inside with complaints that the bill, which has been celebrated for being relatively liberal, makes “it easier for the government to detain or deport immigrants—whether in the country legally or not.”

The LAT, WP, and NYT all front President Bush ordering everybody to chill and the Justice Department to temporarily seal records seized in the FBI’s unusual raid on Rep. William Jefferson’s office. That gives time for the White House to work out a deal with their new opponents: Republican congressional leaders.

The NYT and WPfront Prime Minister Tony Blair hanging at the White House with Bush, where they defended the war, declined to commit to a drawdown of troops, and expressed a few regrets. Bush acknowledged it wasn’t a good move to challenge insurgents to “bring it on” nor to say he wanted Osama Bin Laden “dead or alive.” Said the president, “I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner.”

The WP pays more attention to Blair’s meatier mea culpa: “De-Baathification.” As the paper notes, the de-Baathification effort has long been considered a questionable move, including by a U.S. government study.

Only the NYT fronts Palestinian President Abbas calling for a national referendum on the creation a Palestinian state limited to the 1967 borders. Abbas said the referendum will happen in about a month unless Hamas itself agrees to de-facto recognition of Israel. The referendum would be based on a proposed peace deal recently put out by jailed Fatah and Hamas activists. Polls have long shown a majority of Palestinians support a two-state solution.

USA Todayfronts and other mention the merciful news that the Treasury Department is scrapping the long-distance phone tax. Expect to save about $18 a year. 

In his WP op-ed column, Charles Krauthammer calls Iran’s overtures for direct negotiations with the U.S. an “obvious trap“:

Mark my words. The momentum for U.S.-Iran negotiations has only begun. The focus of the entire Iranian crisis will begin to shift from the question of whether Tehran will stop its nuclear program to whether Washington will sit down alone at the table with Tehran. To this cynical bait-and-switch, there can be no American response other than No. Absolutely not.

Speaking of traps, elsewhere on the Post’s op-ed page, columnist David Ignatius leaves the impression that his colleague cited above might want to consider shutting his:

America’s best strategy is to play to its strengths—which are the open exchange of ideas, backed up by unmatched military power. The need for connection is especially clear in the case of Iran, which in isolation has remained frozen in revolutionary zealotry like an exotic fruit in aspic. …There’s no guarantee that a policy of engagement will work. The Iranian regime’s desire to acquire nuclear weapons may be so unyielding that Tehran and Washington will remain on a collision course. But America and its allies will be in a stronger position for responding to Iranian calls for dialogue. Openness isn’t a concession by America, it’s a strategic weapon.